Stuff dishonest car dealers used to put in the oil of worn out engines?

I overheard some friends talking about buying a used car. One said to make sure that no one had put sawdust or banana peels in the oil! Now I had heard this statement or something similar years ago and had forgotten.

My question is how would this help or mask the symptoms a tired worn out engine? All I can see it doing it plugging the oil pump pickup and locking up the engine? I guess all this stuff could help plug leaks in gaskets/seals to mask an oil leak but what good would this really do? Is this just an old saying or was this actually done at one time? I can see it maybe working on an engine without an oil pump (really old) but cannot see it doing anything good, even in the very short term, on a modern engine.

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I know people who have added various additives to their engines that burned oil or had worn bearings and made more noise because of this. They were mainly just thicker oil to mask the extra large clearances. One issue with this in many modern cars is that the valve lifters and timing in many new cars requires a very specific range of viscosities as well as very clean oil.

I honestly feel that one of the main reasons you don’t see so many mass polluters driving around anymore is that modern engines cannot run in such poor condition because of all the sensors and hydraulic systems in the engine. If an engine starts burning oil, it simply won’t run very long before something gets fouled.

I think the sawdust and banana peels were for old worn manual transmissions, to cover up the sound of grinding gears, not for engines. I remember an old (well, they’re all old) episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Barney thought he got a “great” deal on a used car, until it started acting up and they discovered sawdust in the transmission.

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This makes more sense than a pressure lubricated engine.

I recently had a manual transmission that was acting funny. 2nd gear synchro was shot and it would sometimes pop out of gear, especially 3rd, when you hit a bump and it was under load. Between this and the fact that the clutch needed replacement, I got another good transmission to swap in. I found some sheared off screw heads from the bearing retainer when I drained the fluid. I suspect that I found the source of many of the problems.

I guess this is basically like some of the cars I have seen where the cooling system is filled with some type of stop leak. They should outlaw that crap.

I have no doubt that just about everything imaginable has been tried as an additive at one time or another. I’ve heard of countless things, including sawdust for transmission. We get an occasional odd recommendation on this forum.

I agree with your conclusion that these “additives” cannot do good, only harm. I also agree with your post of 10:23AM.

The most interesting additive that is actually decent was a suggestion by a transmission guy here to use Berryman B12 in automatic transmissions. He runs it all the time but I put it in one that was getting “clunky” and then had the fluid and filter changed. I wanted to dislodge all the crud right before the change and the transmission shifted smooth as silk afterwards.

One that seems to actually work in the oil for freeing suck rings and lifters in neglected engines is Marvel Mystery Oil. I know others just add a few ounces of Diesel and it does the same thing.

The sawdust and banana peels seems to be more for rear ends that are howling

Put it in, and if it’s quiet long enough to sell the POS, mission accomplished

That’s what I hear, anyways

I think I would have trouble sleeping if I pulled a fast one on somebody, like that

What’s scary is that some of the guys that tell these stories, the way they smile, their eyes glaze over, and they laugh, it makes you think they’re the ones that were doing it. And maybe they wish they could still get away with it

Here’s what happened to Barney:

"Barney makes the decision to buy a car for the first time. He sees an ad in the paper that sounds just like what he’s looking for and when the seller comes to Andy’s house, he’s more convinced than ever. The vendor is a little old lady whose husband has recently died. She claims the car was only ever driven a low speed and that it just breaks her heart to sell it. Andy advises caution and suggests that he have Wally the mechanic give the car a once over but Barney won’t hear of it. The old woman has him wrapped around her little finger so tight that he even overpays for the car. Not surprisingly, the car breaks down the next day when he take her out for the first time. When Gomer checks it out, he finds saw dust in the transmission, used to keep it all running smoothly for a few days and a sure sign he was taken for a ride. They soon find exactly what that old lady has been up to. "

Keep in mind this phrase “Only in the movies”. In this case, only in Mayberry. TV writers are not mechanics.

I have never heard of anyone doing (or finding) the sawdust trick in the real world, and I’ve been in it for a while. Anyone else?

I do recall my father telling a story about a guy he knew in the '50s who had a worn out babbit beater Chevy. He dropped the pan, took each bearing cap off and “packed” them with ham rind. Then he towed the car to within a block of the Chevy dealer. He only drove it that very short distance and traded it in. Of course the dealer discovered it as soon as they sent the trade out for it’s first test drive, and subsequently dropped the pan again. Of course that wasn’t a dealer trying to fleece a customer.

I’ve heard that from other places in the '60s. So if it’s just a story it was widespread.

I remember back in the 80s running across a rear differential that looked like it had been packed with something to quieten it down although I don’t think it was sawdust. It was a trade-in and the boss sent it back to service where a rear differential leak was discovered. In the course of fixing the leak this unknown substance was discovered. Once repaired and with fresh fluid it seemed to be fine.

Of the dealers I’ve worked for over the years I’ve never known one of them to stuff sawdust into a differential or STP Oil Treatment in an engine to muffle noises.
However, I’ve seen a lot of trade-ins that the owners have doctored before unloading them on the dealer.

The worst one was the car with the missing engine and transmission.

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Back in the 60s and 70s, I too often often heard discussions about using sawdust or bananas in manual transmissions or rear differentials to quiet noises. This was usually done prior to selling the vehicle.

This was not limited to car dealers. Individual private sellers did it as well.

The second car I bought when I was young and foolish, was from a little old lady in a cottage with a white picket fence around it. It was a 54 Plymouth that had just been repainted Petty blue.

She was so charming and the car seemed so nice that I didn’t even look under it. The only problem I saw was that the seat wouldn’t slide but I figured I could fix that.

The next week I was driving and the u-joints started clunking and I looked underneath and saw the joints were wrapped with grease filled burlap with wire coat hanger twisted around the ends.

I saw why the seat wouldn’t slide, the floor was made of flattened large paint cans welded together with the seat frame welded to them.

When I changed the oil it came out glug, glug like 90 weight gear oil. Two months later the bearings went.

The moral os the story, buy the car, not the story.

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I remember hearing more than once, the use of finely ground oatmeal or pepper to plug a radiator leak, but never really saw anyone really do it. I guess that it would flow to the leak and swell as it cooked and would plug the hole.
I might try that if I was stranded out in the desert 100 miles from nowhere and had to rely on my own wit to survive.

I avoid even the marketed stop leaks and additives. I think they do more harm than good. I did use some stop leak for a plow truck this fall that had a small head gasket leak. I know it worked, or at least helped for the short time. The truck is a rust bucket and too many problems to fix, so I know it will be replaced before next years plow season.

I bought a car once that I had even looked under the hood before paying for it, but somehow missed the recent repair. Someone had needed to replace the ground cable from the battery. They had straightened out and twisted three lengths of coat hanger to make the wire from.


@oldtimer–your story of the 1954 Plymouth and the heavy weight oil in the crankcase reminded me of an experience when I was in college. Several of us were coming back to campus with one fellow who owned a 1950 Pontiac. About 15 miles away from campus, a connecting rod started knocking. The driver pulled into a service station and we filled the crankcase with 90 weight gear lube. We push started the car and the heavy oil got us back to campus. The next day, a wrecker hauled the Pontiac away to the junk yard.

I believe that was a black 52 or 53 Ford that Barney bought. Then later Aunt Bea bought that nice 56 Ford. I like to watch the shows just to look at the old cars.

Around here we had one guy that it was suspected of using saw dust. He had a used car lot. We used to call him J C Bob because every car you’d look at he’s say J C its just like brand new.

Coat hangers on U joints? That’s a new one. I mean U joints are pretty cheap.

When I was cook at Holiday inn in college,I bought a car from a hotel maintenance guy who had a sideline of used cars. Was disappointed when I found masking tape over rust holes spray painted the proper color, and the engine blew within a year. As Wierd Al says, I’ll be laughing my butt off while he is roasting in hell. (amish paradise) a bit into the song. One of my favs if you want a watch here it is!

Ah, “Weird Al” Yankovic, my favorite artist. You know he’s outlasted many of the artists he’s parodied over the years. I’d say he certainly belongs in the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame.

I have all three of Tom & Ray’s Disrespectful Car Tunes CD’s and I’m disappointed they didn’t get at least one Weird Al song on there. “Stop Draggin’ My Car Around” comes to mind as appropriate.

On Board with that @Ed_frugal !

Back in 1962 just after my sister married, my Brother in Law got a body shop job at one of the dealers in St. Paul on University Ave. I think it was a Ford dealer. He had worked previously at the local Ford dealer body shop so was experienced and did/does nice work. He quit when they wanted him to use tape over rust and then body filler to make it look nice. That was back when all the cars had rust holes on the fenders, doors or wheel wells.

Of course then there was that aluminum tape that was pushed for rust repairs. I tried it but it didn’t last. Of course the best was welding in new metal or second best, fiberglass in my view. I think it was a pretty common practice back then. That’s why you used to need to go over the common rust areas with a magnet to detect if there was filler in there or not.